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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Dan's interest in history and psychiatry drives his research into the asylum's past. Intensely vivid descriptions and photographs bring home the full horror of what used to happen to unfortunate patients.
Friendship and family loyalty are important -- and tightly connect the teens to sinister forces.
Positive Role Models
Dan and his friends are brave and believably flawed as they attempt to make sense of ominous portents and worse events.
Violence & Scariness
Many scenes practically guaranteed to give the sensitive reader nightmares: a young man gets electroshock therapy to "cure" his homosexuality; a spirited 10-year-old girl is lobotomized; and other vignettes show what passed for mental health treatment in the olden days. Central to the plot, both past and present, is a serial killer renowned for arranging his victims in gruesome, lifelike poses -- who may or may not be connected to the murders that befall unsuspecting characters.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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Frequent use of "s--,t" "ass," and variations thereof.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
One of the teen characters drinks a lot as part of a downward spiral.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Asylum is a horror novel in which archaic, violent psychiatric treatments of the mid-20th century come to terrifying life in story, illustrations, and old photographs from mental institutions. Also, someone is committing visually grotesque murders just like those of a serial killer once confined at the institution that now serves as a dorm. There's a tender budding romance between two characters, and a gay teen is traumatized by his parents' rejection. There's also a lot of profanity, mostly "s--t," "ass," and variations. In keeping with the horror genre, characters are quite heedless of Keep Out signs and other things that would serve as warnings to the wise.
Is It Any Good?
As an exposé of ghastly conditions for anyone with the misfortune to land in the "mental health" facilities of decades past, Asylum is dramatically effective. Personal tales are revealed in both the text and illustrations -- chiefly old photographs from such institutions that suggest torture far more than medical treatment. But as a story, the novel is less successful, though some of its many disconnects and unexplained events may be resolved in the planned sequel. Things happen and revelations occur at a relentless pace, often with little internal logic other than a barrage of scariness; the cartoonishness of the characters and the horror genre (author Roux turns to teen fiction from two previous zombie novels) sits uneasily with the vivid, real horrors inflicted on real people that are central to the plot.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.